Portrait of the week

Portrait of the week: Labour/Tory Brexit talks, Gavin Williamson’s innocence plea and Cyclone Fani

11 May 2019

9:00 AM

11 May 2019

9:00 AM


John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, blamed Theresa May, the Prime Minister, for leaking details of talks between the government and Labour over Brexit. He said she had ‘blown the confidentiality’ of the talks and ‘jeopardised the negotiations’. He was annoyed that the Sunday Times had said she would agree to a customs union, something predicted four days earlier by the Daily Telegraph. Rory Stewart, the new International Development Secretary, said the Conservatives had to accept the ‘short-term pain’ of a Brexit compromise with Labour. David Lidington, May’s right-hand man, admitted that the failure to reach a Brexit agreement meant that the EU elections on 23 May ‘do have to take place’. Iain Duncan Smith, a former Conservative leader, said: ‘Either the Prime Minister sets the immediate date for departure or, I’m afraid, they [MPs] must do it for her.’ May met Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of the backbenchers’ 1922 Committee, about her future. The Duchess of Sussex gave birth to a boy weighing 7lb 3oz, the 7th in line to the throne.

Gavin Williamson, sacked as defence secretary, continued to insist that he was innocent of leaking information from a meeting of the National Security Council about May’s hospitality to the idea of the Chinese company Huawei having a hand in the UK’s 5G mobile network. May said there was ‘compelling evidence’, but Williamson said he would ‘swear on his children’s lives’ he didn’t do it. Penny Mordaunt was appointed Defence Secretary and Rory Stewart the prisons minister was appointed Development Secretary in her place. The aerospace firm Bombardier put up for sale its Northern Ireland operations, employing 3,600 people. Edward Bramson, who sought more benefits for shareholders of Barclays, failed in his attempt to be appointed to its board.

The Conservatives had their worst local election results since 1995. Of the 8,335 councillors elected in England, the Tories gained 1,333 fewer seats than in 2015 and Labour 82. The Liberal Democrats gained 704 extra seats and the Greens 194. Ukip was reduced to 31 seats in all. In Northern Ireland the Alliance won 21 extra seats and Aontú, an anti-abortion splinter from Sinn Fein, won a seat. The Southwark coroner gave a verdict of lawful killing on Henry Vincent, stabbed by Richard Osborn-Brooks, 79, whom he had threatened with a screwdriver while burgling his house; Mr Osborn-Brooks and his wife have not been able to return to their home since then because of fears for their safety.


The evacuation of more than a million people in the Indian state of Orissa to avoid Cyclone Fani limited the number killed to 16. The cyclone destroyed more than 1,000 houses in Bangladesh. In Namibia, the second state of emergency in three years was declared because of drought. Asia Bibi, the Pakistani Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy in 2010 but acquitted last year by the Supreme Court, left the country for Canada. A cruise ship run by the Church of Scientology was put into quarantine at Curaçao after a member of the crew was found to have measles. A period of quarantine was lifted in Mongolia after two people died of bubonic plague from eating a raw marmot.

An Aeroflot aeroplane made an emergency landing in flames at Sheremetyevo airport in Moscow, killing at least 41; it was said to have been struck by lightning after takeoff. Dozens of civilians died and 12 medical centres were reported to have been attacked by Syrian government air strikes in the north-west of the country. A ceasefire ended a weekend in which hundreds of rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel and Israeli jets responded with air strikes; four Israelis and 25 Palestinians were killed. A petrol tanker lorry overturned in Niamey, the capital of Niger, and at least 58 were killed when it exploded, as many were trying to collect the spilt fuel. Jean Vanier, the founder of L’Arche, the movement for integration of disabled people, died aged 90.

Turkey’s electoral body ordered the local elections in Istanbul that had been seen an opposition victory in March to be held again in June. King Vajiralongkorn of Thailand completed a three-day coronation ceremony three years after coming to the throne. Denver, Colorado, voted in a referendum to stop criminal proceedings against people who consumed mushrooms containing psilocybin. A man in Nantong failed a breathalyser after eating a helping of notoriously smelly durian fruit. CSH

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